Last week, we began our examination of the Illinois Supreme Court’s experience since 2000 with amicus briefs, analyzing the years 2000 through 2007 on both the civil and criminal side of the docket. This week, we’ll turn our attention to the Court’s experience between 2008 and 2015.

In Table 352 below, we report the total number of amicus briefs the Court has accepted for filing in civil cases each year. Early in this period, amicus briefs tended to be more commonplace in cases which the Court eventually decided with dissents than in unanimous decisions. In 2008, the Court accepted nineteen amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions to only fifteen in the unanimously decided cases. The following year, there were only twelve amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions to twenty-five in unanimous ones, but in 2010, the two sides of the docket had switched positions again – the Court accepted 26 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, but only 14 in unanimous ones.

Since then, amicus briefs have tended to be more common in cases which the Court decided unanimously. In 2011, the Court accepted 10 briefs in non-unanimous decisions to 26 in unanimous ones. In 2012, the spread was even – nineteen briefs each in non-unanimous and unanimous cases. But in 2013, the Court accepted nine briefs in non-unanimous cases to 22 in unanimous ones. In 2014, the Court accepted only four amicus briefs in non-unanimous civil decisions, but took 15 in unanimous decisions. Last year, the Court allowed nine amicus briefs in non-unanimous civil decisions, but amicus briefs in unanimous decisions were up even further, with 24 being filed.

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In Table 353, we report the same data as an average number of briefs per case. From 2008 through 2012, the Court averaged more amicus briefs per case in non-unanimous decisions than unanimous ones. This could have two possible explanations, of course; it could be that more controversial cases both attract amicus participation and dissent on the Court. Or, it could be that amicus briefs tend to increase the likelihood of dissent (or perhaps, some of both). In 2008, the Court averaged 1.58 briefs in non-unanimous decisions to only 0.5 in unanimous ones. The following year, the Court averaged 1.5 extra briefs in non-unanimous decisions to 0.76 in unanimous cases. In 2010, the numbers were even more lopsided – the Court averaged 2.89 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, but only 0.58 in unanimous cases.

In the years since, the numbers have been somewhat more even. In 2011, the Court averaged 1.11 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions to 0.9 in unanimous ones. The following year, the averages were 1 in non-unanimous cases to 0.9 in unanimous cases. In 2013 and 2014, the Court actually averaged slightly more amicus briefs in cases decided unanimously – 0.64 and 0.67 for non-unanimous decisions in 2013 and 2014 to 1.1 and 0.71 for unanimous decisions. Last year, the two sides returned to their expected relationship, as the Court averaged one amicus brief per case in non-unanimous decisions (its highest figure since 2012) to 0.71 on the unanimous side.

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Join us back here tomorrow as we address the Court’s experience with amicus briefs on the criminal side between 2008 and 2015.